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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

In a world that is full of external factors that we cannot control, it is becoming more and more important to at least control ourselves.

Thinking positively can have a tremendous effect on our lives. By eliminating negative thoughts, we’re able to at least influence the part of our lives that we can control: our own mindset.

In this article, you will learn how to think positive and ditch the negative thoughts. Before we dive into the step-by-step guide on how to do so, I’d like to share with you how I learned to thinking positive the hard way…

At the start of 2019, I was quite stressed at work with multiple tight deadlines. I was constantly worried and the stress was affecting my ability to sleep. Numerous nights in a row, I would experience insomnia, where I had a staring contest with the ceiling because my mind would simply not stop thinking about all the stressful things I had to deal with.

I eventually got up and wrote everything down. Every single thought that rushed through my head, I wrote it down in detail. This allowed me to do a couple of things:

  • It made everything relatable
  • It showed me that every obstacle that was on my mind was not that big on its own. I was only stressed because these obstacles were big in numbers, while independently, these obstacles were just minor things that I could overcome.
  • It allowed me to think positively about these little obstacles and how I was going to conquer them one at a time.
  • Writing down my negative emotions allowed me to wipe them clean from my mind. Think of it as a laptop: after having browsed for a long time, I was able to clear my RAM and start fresh. My mind was finally clear from negative thoughts.

After doing this, I was finally able to sleep, and the next day, I slowly started to tackle these small obstacles.

This is just one example of how I manage to think positively and eliminate negative thoughts from dominating my mind.

Here are 4 actionable steps you can follow in order to think positive:

Step 1: Turn Every Obstacle into Smaller “Challenges”

In the intro, you read that I was stressed because I was worrying about a big number of small obstacles as opposed to one big devastating obstacle. Writing down my worries allowed me to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

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As a result, I observed my problems as single challenges that I could overcome.

When you’re currently surrounded with negativity – whether that’s because of a stressful project or problems in a relationship – you should try to dissect that challenge into different sub-challenges.

For example, if you have to deliver a huge presentation at work on Friday, try to think of this big task as multiple smaller tasks:

  • Find sources to support your presentation
  • Think of interesting anecdotes, introductions or examples
  • Create a general outline of your presentation
  • Complete the first 5 slides
  • Add a small video or puzzle to your presentation
  • Finish the presentation
  • Think of a keyword for each slide to remember what you have to say
  • Practice the presentation in order to finish it within 30 minutes
  • Deliver a great presentation

While this example may not be relevant to you, the message is all the same. You can tackle pretty much any obstacle – no matter how big it may seem – as long as you take it one step at the time.

That’s how you can eliminate negative thoughts such as “I can never do that” or “I’ll never be good enough” or “I’ll never reach that goal” from controlling your actions.

Take it one step at the time and pretty much any goal becomes manageable.

Step 2: Realize That Positive Thoughts Can Be a Choice

Happiness is determined as follows:[1]

  • 50% is determined by genetics
  • 10% is determined by external factors
  • 40% is determined by your own outlook

This determination has been studied by numerous researchers, and while the details differ, the results all share the same observation:

Your happiness can be influenced by your own thoughts.

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Even though there are things in life that we cannot control, we can still often control how we react to these things.

In that sense, we might not get to control 100% of our happiness but we can still influence a big chunk of it.

I believe we can learn to influence the 40% of our happiness that is determined by our own personal outlook. Happiness is a choice, and you can learn to recognize these situations on your own.[2]

How does this help you to think positive and eliminate negative thoughts?

Well, because this shows you that it pays off to learn how to think positively in difficult situations.

By developing this skill, you can really increase happiness in your life. It is definitely not always easy, but you can change a bad day into a good one just by focusing on the positives instead of the negatives.

This is the reason why I love this quote of Winston Churchill:

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Step 3: Spend Time with the People That Have a Positive Influence on Your Life and Be Grateful for Them

Almost everybody has a small circle of people that they trust and love, whether that’s a partner, family or friends. These people have a positive influence on your life.

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I want you to focus on spending more time with these people. When you’re surrounded by negativity, you are more likely to postpone activities that require you to be outgoing. You’d rather be lazy and watch Netflix all day than to go outside and meet up with your friend.

You must try to break out of your comfort zone and spend more time with the people who actually have a positive influence on your happiness. These people can act as a support net for the moments when you’re feeling down. This might sound intimidating and scary, but it’s a step that should not be underestimated.

Even when you don’t feel comfortable sharing your challenges with these people, there’s another thing you can actively do to initiate positive thoughts; and that’s to be grateful that these people are in your life:

  • Be grateful that you have parents who support you, no matter what you do.
  • Be grateful for the friends with whom you can laugh your ass off.
  • Be grateful that you have a healthy and loving partner.
  • Be grateful that you have a kid that looks up to you and thinks you are the best.

Being grateful might sound like a rather pointless thing to do. Why would being grateful help you in thinking more positively and eliminating negative thoughts?

Well, the answer is simple.

Being grateful forces you to think of the good things that you already have in your life. This allows you to face your issues with optimism, instead of negativity. People that actively practice gratitude are much better able to deal with toxic emotions.

So what do you have to do?

Go out there and meet up with the people you love, and be grateful for having these people in your life.

To help inspire you to feel more grateful, here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.

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Step 4: Don’t Give up After a Setback

So you had a bad day last week? Or maybe a terrible week in which you allowed negative thoughts to control your life? Who cares!

We are only human, so we’re bound to experience a day of negativity every once in a while. It’s important to realize that everybody occasionally experiences negative thoughts in their life. Eternal happiness does not exist. Even the happiest man alive has experienced negativity and sadness on some days.

What you need to when this inevitably happens to you:

  • Don’t let this set you back.
  • Don’t interpret it as a failure
  • Don’t let it stop you from trying to think positive

You see, even the most optimistic person experiences negativity on occasion. Sure, we can try to be as positive as possible every day, but we have to accept that negativity is something that we have to deal with from time to time.

So what if you’re engulfed in negative thoughts today? Screw it and know that tomorrow is a new day and that you can try to work on this again.

Take a look at this article and learn about Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them).

Final Thoughts

In the end, there’s no arguing that we cannot control 100% of our happiness. We can’t stand in front of a mirror, repeat the words “I am thinking happy thoughts only” ninety-nine times and accept to suddenly be happy.

It doesn’t work like that.

However, there are a number of things we can do to at least improve our mindset in the situations where we do get to choose how we react to external factors.

I hope that you have a better idea of what you can do in these situations. Sooner than later, you will influence your own mindset to think positively and to eliminate negative thoughts.

More About Positivity And Happiness

Featured photo credit: Lucas Marconnet via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] For a State of Happiness: Happiness: it’s not just your genes, stupid!
[2] Tracking Happiness: How Happiness Can Be A Choice

More by this author

Hugo Huyer

Author at Tracking Happiness, lifelong happiness tracker and passionate about all things mental health and well-being.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

4. They Know How To Inspire

Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

5. They Set Clear Goals

The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

6. They Are Organized

It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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8. They Love Awards

Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

10. They Rest

Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

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Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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